COVID vaccinations now open to all Big Island residents 16 and older

COVID vaccinations now open to all Big Island residents 16 and older

By STEPHANIE SALMONS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Friday, April 2, 2021, 12:05 a.m.

All Big Island residents 16 and older can now register to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The state Department of Health on Wednesday announced that neighbor islands had the ability to expand vaccine eligibility as needed to ensure all vaccination slots are filled.

The Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for individuals 16 and older, while vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for adults 18 and older.

“We are strongly committed to accommodating as many community members as possible who are seeking the COVID vaccine,” said Kona Community Hospital spokeswoman Judy Donovan.

KCH has the capacity to administer more than 2,200 vaccines per week.

“As we look at our clinic calendar for later April and early May, our appointment numbers begin to trend down,” Donovan said. “Our goal is to keep all of our vaccine clinics full. Expanding to the broader population will help fill those clinics.”

As it prepares to administer 5,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Saturday, Hilo Medical Center also announced its expanded eligibility Thursday.

“So the coconut wireless among the parents have been fast and furious,” HMC spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said with a laugh. “It went through all the baseball teams, all the basketball teams, soccer teams, the running club.”

Assistant hospital administrator Kris Wilson said a lot of parents are excited to reach this milestone for their children.

Cabatu said parents of college students hoping to return to school on the mainland or to in-person classes also are thrilled about the expanded eligibility.

Wilson said hospitals operating larger PODs, or points of dispensing, are really “driving the vaccine into the community,” but can have trouble filling those slots.

Appointments at HMC’s daily vaccination clinic and local pharmacies, however, are filling up, she said.

“But to do a mass vaccination effort and to make it successful and worth the community’s time … we want to maximize the amount of vaccine that we deliver on that date,” Wilson said.

Cabatu said HMC expects to have 5,000 people registered for Saturday’s clinic.

According to Wilson, HMC also anticipates giving its 25,000th dose on Saturday.

There is a “trickle effect” among previously eligible groups as vaccine hesitancy wanes, but Wilson said as eligibility is rolled out to the next larger group, there will be another push for inoculations.

“We’ll see everybody who really wants it, try to get in early and then those that kind of wait and see for others to get vaccinated, once they see that nothing happened to their friends, nothing happened to their family, they’ll come in and get vaccinated, too,” she said. “We really feel our role, at least for these mass vaccination efforts, is to get through that really excited crowd who wants to get in early, and who wants to be first at the gate when we open up that next group.”

Other providers said they also will begin administering vaccine doses to those 16 or older in the coming days.

Kerri Okamura, director of pharmacy operations for KTA Super Stores, said vaccines will be available for adults 18 and older at an upcoming mass vaccination clinic, scheduled for April 9 at the Edith Kanakaole Multi-Purpose Stadium.

The grocery chain aims to administer about 2,000 first doses of the Moderna vaccine at that clinic.

“I guess it makes it easier as far as screening and I hope there’s enough vaccine so that everyone can get it,” Okamura said. “I hope it wasn’t too early to expand. … It was a pretty big range that we opened up to, so we’ll see how it goes.”

KTA began offering vaccines in its four Big Island pharmacies in February.

“We’re pretty booked in our stores, so we still have our waiting list,” Okamura said.

To schedule an appointment, visit and click on the link for vaccination appointments at KTA’s Puainako location. Those who need assistance should call the pharmacy and press 6 and leave a message for a call back.

Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital also will expand its eligibility to those 16 and older starting Monday, said spokeswoman Lynn Scully.

The Waimea hospital still administers about 200 vaccines a day and is scheduled about two weeks out.


Another push for a new hospital in North Kona

Another push for a new hospital in North Kona

By Chelsea Jensen West Hawaii Today | Tuesday, March 9, 2021, 12:05 a.m.

Legislators are pushing forward the conversation about constructing a new hospital in North Kona with a pair of resolutions requesting the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation conduct a feasibility study.

Senate Resolution 53 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 were introduced Thursday calling for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) to convene a task force to assess the practicality of constructing a new hospital in North Kona. Big Island Sens. Dru Kanuha (D-Kona, Ka‘u) and Lorraine Inouye (D-North Hawaii) are among the co-intruders with Sen. Laura Acasio (D-Hilo) as a co-sponsor on both resolutions.

Legislators are pushing forward the conversation about constructing a new hospital in North Kona with a pair of resolutions requesting the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation conduct a feasibility study.

Senate Resolution 53 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 were introduced Thursday calling for the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) to convene a task force to assess the practicality of constructing a new hospital in North Kona. Big Island Sens. Dru Kanuha (D-Kona, Ka‘u) and Lorraine Inouye (D-North Hawaii) are among the co-intruders with Sen. Laura Acasio (D-Hilo) as a co-sponsor on both resolutions.

Because the Senate Concurrent Resolution represents the entire Legislature, it must pass a vote on the floor of each chamber to be adopted. The Senate Resolution would only require a single Senate floor vote.

If adopted, the task force would include a representative from the state Senate and House; the director of the Department of Health; the CEO of the West Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation; a member of the West Hawaii Regional Health System Board of Directors; and any other representatives of the HHSC West Hawaii Region CEO. The West Hawaii Region CEO would also serve as chairperson of the task force.

The first meeting is requested to be held no later than June 1, 2021, and to submit a report of its findings to the Legislature prior to the opening of the 2022 session.

Jim Lee, CEO of the HHSC’s West Hawaii Region, said hospital leadership and the Board of Directors appreciate the legislators commitment to improving the health care system in West Hawaii.

“Because the needs of our current hospital facility are so great, meeting the future healthcare needs of the community is always at the forefront of our thoughts. Whether data is gathered via a task force, or a community needs assessment, studying the feasibility of building a new hospital is an important step to plan for the future,” said Lee, noting he just learned about and was reviewing S.C.R. No 53 and S.R. No 35.

QNHCH, HMC to being vaccinating seniors 70-74

QNHCH, HMC to being vaccinating seniors 70-74

By STEPHANIE SALMONS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Friday, March 5, 2021, 12:05 a.m.


Big Island hospitals soon will begin vaccinating individuals over 70 against COVID-19, a move in alignment with the state Department of Health’s decision Wednesday to open inoculations to people 70-74 beginning Monday.

Queens North Hawaii Community Hospital on Monday will begin scheduling vaccinations for those over 70.

The inoculations are by appointment only.

To request an appointment, email, and include your name, date of birth, phone number and employer if you are an essential worker.

Anyone who previously emailed or called while they were ineligible, but are now eligible, are asked to email again.

Hilo Medical Center also will begin registering those over 70 beginning Monday.

For more information, visit

In a post on its website, Kona Community Hospital said it now is accepting appointments for individuals over 70.

For more information, visit

Inoculations from HMC and KCH also are by appointment only.

As of Thursday 380,310 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered statewide, an increase of 8,967 from the previous day.

The state has ordered 507,730 vaccine doses and has so far received 470,150.

According to data from the DOH, 14.7% of Hawaii County’s 201,500 residents have received at least one vaccination dose, while 6.9% have received two doses.

The DOH on Thursday reported 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Hawaii, including four new cases on the Big Island.

Hawaii Island has a 0.4% test positivity rate, compared to a 1% positivity rate statewide.

The number of COVID-related deaths in Hawaii remain at 441.

There have been no COVID-19 clusters under investigation in Hawaii County in the last 14 days, according to a weekly cluster report issued by the DOH.

Inoculations continue: Residents 70 and older eligible for vaccinations starting Monday

Inoculations continue: Residents 70 and older eligible for vaccinations starting Monday

By Laura Ruminski West Hawaii Today | Friday, March 5, 2021, 12:05 a.m.

Pfizer vaccines are ready to be administered at the Kona Community Hospital clinic Thursday at Kekuaokalani Gym. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Kona Community Hospital held its second COVID-19 vaccine mega clinic Thursday, with more than 600 individuals registered to receive a dose at Kekuaokalani Gymnasium in Kailua-Kona.

With the 615 doses administered Thursday, the hospital has now given more than 7,300 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Phase 1A front-line workers, and Phase 1B kupuna age 75 and older and essential workers, said Judy Donovan, Kona Community Hospital’s marketing and strategic planning director.

Phase 1B essential workers now include employees in transportation (bus, mass transit and dock workers), agriculture, grocery stores, food suppliers, restaurants, gas stations, skilled trades (mechanics, electricians, plumbers), financial institutions, and hospitality/hotels.

The process begins with those set to get the vaccine entering the gym and being checked in. Next, they headed to a waiting area where their paperwork was verified. Once confirmed, nurses and National Guard medics administered the shot and sent the person for a 15- to 30-minute wait under the watchful eye of medical personnel. The whole process takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

The closed point of dispensing (POD) mega clinic is being put on thanks to a partnership between Kona Community Hospital, Alii Health Center, West Hawaii Community Health Center, state Department of Health, Hawaii County and the Hawaii National Guard. Kona Community Hospital is operating the clinic on Thursdays, the Department of Health on Tuesdays and West Hawaii Community Health Center (WHCHC) on Fridays.

Today, the West Hawaii Community Health Center will host the first walk-in clinic at the gym from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. for kupuna 75 years of age and older. No pre-registration is needed and vaccination is on a first-come, first-served basis for Hawaii County residents with a valid ID only. Part-time “snowbird” residents are eligible but must provide proof of part-time residency.

Patients of WHCHC may register for the in-clinic vaccination by visiting

Though hundreds pulled up their sleeves Thursday, KCH Medical Director Alistair Bairos said he would like to see more people at the clinic.

“We need more people to sign up and come for our vaccine,” he said.

That hopefully will happen because starting Monday, the eligibility age for vaccine administration will drop to 70 and older for all dispensers, including North Hawaii Community Hospital and the state Department of Health.

Vaccinations are by appointment only at the Waimea facility. To request an appointment, email and include your name, date of birth, phone number, and employer if you are an essential worker.

To schedule an appointment to receive the Moderna vaccine via the Department of Health call (808) 300-1120. Frontline essential workers will receive vaccinations coordinated through their employer or industry organizations. Organizations with frontline essential workers in Phase 1B should complete not more than one online survey available at

To schedule a vaccination with Kona Community Hospital, call (808) 322-4451. Information can also be obtained via email to


Mass COVID Vaccination Clinics Continue Weekly, Walk-Ins Accepted on Fridays

Mass COVID Vaccination Clinics Continue Weekly, Walk-Ins Accepted on Fridays

By Tiffany DeMasters March 4, 2021, 5:44 PM HST

Galen Kawasaki has been waiting to get the COVID-19 vaccine since the pandemic broke out a year ago.

The Safeway cashier got his chance to obtain the shot through Kona Community Hospital’s second mass vaccination clinic on Thursday at the Kona Community Aquatic Center gym. Kawasaki was one of more than 600 people to be inoculated.

“It’s a relief that we can get some protection,” Kawasaki said.

Mass vaccinations have been taking place in Hilo and Kona by appointment only. Up to now, kūpuna ages 75 years or older, essential workers and educators have been the only ones qualified to receive the shot. However, starting March 8, the Department of Health will now offer the vaccine to individuals 70 years of age or older.

Judy Donovan, KCH spokeswoman, said the hospital was unable to handle the number of people requesting appointments for the vaccine. Last week, more than 200 people were vaccinated at KCH.

“Working in collaboration with the Department of Health and West Hawai‘i Community Health Center, we decided to pool our resources and come down to the gym…and open up to a much larger population,” Donovan said.

People were moving through the gym smoothly. With members of the public checking in on the makai side of the building, they filled out paperwork while waiting for the next health care worker available to give the vaccine.

When the health care worker was finishing vaccinating someone, he/she held up a paddle indicating he/she was ready to take the next person waiting.

After getting the shot, people waited in an observation area for 15 minutes to ensure they didn’t have a bad reaction to the vaccine. For those with a history of allergies to vaccines, they were required to stay 30 minutes.

Hawai‘i County has offered the gym as a location to continue the mass clinics until they are no longer needed.

Starting tomorrow, March 5, West Hawai‘i Community Health Center (WHCHC) will offer a walk-in clinic for the community every Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Natasha Ala, director of marketing and development at WHCHC, said this week’s clinic will be for kūpuna 75 years or older and essential workers.

“It’ll be first-come-first-serve so come when you can,” Ala said Thursday.

KCH is administering the Pfizer vaccine while WCHC is proving the Moderna vaccine. DOH also announced the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine was now available in the state, however, Donovan and Ala don’t know when their respective facilities will have access to it.

The Kona hospital and clinic aren’t currently having supply issues.

“We have a steady supply of Pfizer…,” Donovan explained. “Right now we’re receiving one tray a week (975 doses).

Donovan added they always want to have enough vaccine on hand to provide the second shot.

For several weeks now, Hawai‘i County has maintained a low number of COVID cases. Donovan believes the reason behind this isn’t just because of the vaccine rollout.

“I’ve been pretty amazed with our community and their compliance with the mask wearing and social distancing,” she added. “Almost everyone I see is willing to do what’s necessary to protect each other.”

The resounding feeling among people waiting for their vaccine during Thursday’s clinic was the importance of protecting not only themselves but those around them from the virus.

“(I’m here) to help prevent it from going further, including ourselves,” said Barbara Cameron who was there with her husband Jim. Both are 75 years or older.

Kawasaki said a lot of his family and friends are at risk or have been affected by COVID-19.

“Just take it — it’s easy,” Kawasaki said. “It’s harmless, painless, quick and simple. Didn’t hurt at all.”

For more information on obtaining a vaccine through KCH, click here.

For more information on obtaining a vaccine through West Hawai‘i Community Health Center, click here.

For more information on obtaining a vaccine through Hilo Medical Center, click here.

Hospitals resist Our Care, Our Choice Act

Hospitals resist Our Care, Our Choice Act

By STEPHANIE SALMONS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Sunday, February 14, 2021, 12:05 a.m.

Kathleen Katt

Those seeking to access the Our Care, Our Choice Act still face barriers.

Enacted in 2019, the aid-in-dying law allows Hawaii residents 18 years old or older who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and have a prognosis of six months or less to live to obtain a fatal prescription after two separate verbal requests to a physician, a written request with two witnesses and a mental health evaluation to ensure they are capable of making medical decisions for themselves.

But a lack of providers willing to participate and policies implemented by island health care systems are hindering access to aid-in-dying.

The East Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., which includes Hilo Medical Center, will not participate in OCOCA-related services on its premises, according to a new policy implemented this month.

That includes the duties required by providers under the law, prescribing or delivering aid-in-dying drugs; and prohibiting patients from self-administering the drug while a patient is in an East Hawaii Region facility.

Under the policy, however, providers can still diagnose or confirm a terminal illness, provide information about the law upon request, refer the patient to another health care provider who does participate, and support the patient and their families through the end-of-life process.

According to the policy, providers won’t be censured, disciplined, lose privileges or face any penalty for participating in OCOCA outside of an East Hawaii Region facility.

Approved by the HMC executive management team this month, the policy applies to all East Hawaii critical access hospitals, long-term care facilities, clinics and the Hilo hospital.

“We really support this, and we’re very glad the Legislature has allowed this service to be provided to our community and the people of Hawaii,” HMC Chief Medical Officer Kathleen Katt said. “We are unable to provide the service at our hospital, because we don’t have the resources that are needed to be able to fulfill all of the requirements.”

“We have providers already stretched thin doing clinic work, seeing their own patients,” hospital spokeswoman Elena Cabatu said. “It would require more care for this one patient that they’re already receiving.”

Katt said the health care system supports patients with terminal illnesses and their families through end of life by supporting patient health care services and providing pastoral and palliative care services.

Providers also could refer patients to other providers in the community who provide aid-in-dying.

A similar policy is in place in North Hawaii.

“Although we respect patients’ dignity and right to choose, QNHC does not participate in Our Care, Our Choice Act activities,” said Lynn Scully, spokeswoman for Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital in Waimea.

Kona Community Hospital, however, which is part of the HHSC West Hawaii Region, is in the final stages of adopting a position of “engaged neutrality,” spokeswoman Judy Donovan said.

“KCH supports our patients and their choices regarding the law,” she said. “We will provide appropriate educational resources that allow a patient to make informed end-of-life decisions. However, the hospital does not participate in OCOCA by way of allowing the administration of end-of-life medications on the KCH campus.”

According to Donovan, when a patient requests life-ending medication under the law, KCH providers will participate by offering appropriate resources or support and performing duties that are considered standard care for end-of-life patients.

“For years, KCH providers and the health care team have performed certain aspects of end-of-life processes, such as diagnosing or confirming a terminal disease; providing info to a patient in order to make informed decisions; determining a patient’s capacity, etc.,” she said. “These tasks, along with palliative care, are the standards of care in end-of-life patient care. The determination to provide neutral support of OCOCA was the next step in the evolving standards of care for end-of-life patients.”

Employees are not mandated to participate in OCOCA, but they are educated about KCH’s policy and will arrange for another staff member to provide the requested educational resources, Donovan said.

Donovan said the adoption of this policy is a component of KCH’s inaugural Circle of Life program.

Circle of Life is an employee-based support program that aims to create “meaningful experiences for employees and patients through the use of education and tools relating to traumatic events, end-of-life matters and bereavement.”

Sam Trad, state director for Compassion and Choices, part of a national organization that advocates for end-of-life rights, said finding a provider is the biggest challenge to accessing the law — especially in East Hawaii — and creates a “real barrier.”

“I get a lot of calls from East Hawaii patients who want this option, and currently the only solution is for them to see doctors on the other side of the island,” she said. “I know of at least two patients who died before they were able to complete the process because there’s no doctor in East Hawaii who will support patients. …”

Trad said she encourages health care systems and hospices to have a neutral policy regarding the law.

“If a doctor wants to support the patients in the option, they can,” she said. “We don’t expect any health care systems to be overly supportive of the option but also hope they don’t (oppose) it.”

Calls to Hawaii Care Choices, formerly Hospice of Hilo, were not returned.

How to register to be vaccinated

How to register to be vaccinated

By STEPHANIE SALMONS Hawaii Tribune-Herald | Monday, February 1, 2021, 12:05 a.m.

How to register to be vaccinated | West Hawaii Today

The Moderna vaccine is seen at Regency at Hualalai in Kailua-Kona. (Courtesy Photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)


For more information about registering for the vaccination and how and to do so, visit

According to the site, kupuna 75 or older are now eligible to register for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Medical personnel and frontline workers in Phase 1B also are being vaccinated and will be contacted by their employer to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination, the site states.

The site also includes a survey for organizations with frontline essential workers in Phase 1B that will identify eligible workers and coordinate vaccinations.

Essential workers in Phase 1B includes: first responders, corrections officers, emergency services dispatchers, critical transportation infrastructure workers (harbor and dock workers, public transportation, etc.), critical utilities (energy, water, etc.), teachers and child care and educational support staff (child care, early education, K-12, post-secondary), those essential for federal, state, local government operations, and U.S. Postal Service employees.

Adults over 75 can contact Hawaii District Health Office vaccination sites for assistance registering by calling 300-1120 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

For kupuna registration at Hilo Medical Center, visit or call 932-3000 and press 8 on weekdays during business hours for assistance; at Kona Community Hospital, call 322-4451 from 8 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday; and at Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital, call 881-4668 or email for scheduling.

To schedule an appointment with Kaiser Permanente, visit Those unable to schedule online can call 432-2000 (TTY 711) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Scores of kupuna receive COVID-19 vaccine in Kona

Hawaii hospitals to serve as COVID-19 vaccination hubs for independent health care workers

Hawaii hospitals to serve as COVID-19 vaccination hubs for independent health care workers

State health officials have set up vaccination hub sites at Hawaii hospitals in an effort to rapidly administer COVID-19 vaccines to independent health care workers.

The state Department of Health and Healthcare Association of Hawaii are working with hospitals in each county to ensure independent health care providers and their staff can receive the first dosage of their vaccine this month as part of the first phase of the vaccine rollout.

Hawaii’s hospitals, which are using the Pfizer vaccine for health care workers, will also serve as hubs for independent providers to receive their second, follow-up dosage 21 days later.

After health care workers and long-term facility residents and staff are vaccinated, the state will then administer COVID-19 vaccines to seniors 75 and older, along with front-line workers including first responders, corrections officers and teachers. The state plans to begin vaccinating seniors 75 and older in the next week or so.

Independent health care providers and staff who have not yet received a vaccination should complete an online survey developed by the Department of Health in order to start the process.

The information collected from the survey will be sent to the hospital closest to a provider, and the hospital will then reach out to schedule a vaccination appointment.

Those who have already completed the survey, however, should not submit it again.

Health care providers and staff at independently operated care homes and foster homes are being vaccinated through a separate process.

The vaccination hub sites by counties include:

>> Kauai: Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall (visit;

> Honolulu: Adventist Health Castle, Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children, Pali Momi Medical Center, Straub Medical Center, and The Queen’s Medical Center-Punchbowl and West Oahu;

>> Maui: Maui Memorial Medical Center, Molokai General Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital; and

>> Hawaii island: Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital and North Hawaii Community Hospital.

Health care providers with a Kaiser Permanente health plan can make an appointment for vaccinations at Kaiser’s Honolulu or Waipio clinic by calling 432-2000, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

Kona hospital receives COVID-19 vaccines

Kona hospital receives COVID-19 vaccines

By West Hawaii Today Staff | Monday, December 21, 2020, 12:30 p.m.

Emily Krug, pharmacy director and Kona Community Hospital CEO Jim Lee pose with a shipment of COVID-19 vaccine received Monday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)
Sarah Wagner, pharmacy tech, Lisa Downing, infection prevention director, Emily Krug, pharmacy director and Kona Community Hospital CEO Jim Lee pose with a shipment of COVID-19 vaccine received Monday. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in West Hawaii, Kona Community Hospital said Monday afternoon.

Two direct shipments, one from Pfizer and one from Moderna, arrived Monday, the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) facility said in a prepared statement.

The 975 doses of Pfizer vaccine will be made available for those West Hawaii Region employees who want to receive the vaccine, including those at Kona Community Hospital, Kohala Hospital, the Kona Ambulatory Surgery Center and affiliated staff at Alii Health Center.

HHSC anticipates 700 of its staffers will be vaccinated, including 500 at Kona Community Hospital alone.

Kona Community Hospital’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic will go live on Wednesday. Employees and affiliated staff are currently being registered into the electronic record Vaccine Administration Management System. VAMS is a nationwide secure web-based tool will help jurisdictions, clinics, employers and vaccine recipients manage COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

The Moderna vaccine was received on behalf of the state Department of Health. This vaccine, which does not need ultra-cold storage was to be moved to the DOH district office later Monday.

“We are very excited about receiving these vaccine shipments, and look forward to vaccinating front line staff,” said Jim Lee, West Hawaii Region and KCH CEO. “We are working closely with the Hawaii Department of Health at state and local levels, as well as Healthcare Association of Hawaii to roll out vaccinations as quickly as possible.”